In July 1931, a year-and-a-half before the BBC opened its Empire broadcasting service, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) [AWA] launched an Experimental World-Wide Broadcasting Service, ‘The Voice of Australia’. The service continued until the outbreak of war in 1939. This paper provides a case study of a trans-national communications enterprise that aspired to a broadcasting empire quite unlike the ones that evolved in the British World. The Voice of Australia may have appeared larger in AWA’s marketing brochures than it did in the listening schedules of international citizens, but the goal, the investment and the ceaseless promotion of radio broadcasting in its formative stages as potentially international, contrasts strikingly with later interpretations of the medium as almost inherently local and national. The service involved broadcasting to the world, not just the Empire, and to the Empire from somewhere other than its centre. International broadcasting was conceived as potentially commercial, not just political and cultural. This challenged the institutional forms and market structures for the relatively new medium of broadcasting, at a time when they were far from settled. It also tested the relationships between the young BBC and rival commercial organisations aspiring to national broadcaster status in Australia, before and after the creation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1932.
Paper presented at the British World Conference: Defining The British World, Bristol, United Kingdom, 11-14 July 2007